Let’s talk dirty

Penn Jillette, the louder, bigger half of the magic/comedy team of Penn & Teller, is executive producer of "The Aristocrats," a documentary that opens this month.

I bumped into MPAA big cheese Dan Glickman at a party after the wedding of my wife’s cousin. Being an atheist teetotaler, I’m not much for weddings or parties but, to carny trash, free food is free food. The Motion Pictures Assn. of America president is a close friend of the bride’s dad, so there we were, screaming pleasantries over a wedding combo with a cello playing rocking Dave Matthews covers. No one disagrees with my hatred of wedding rock cover bands with electric cellos, so let’s move on to anonymous unelected ratings boards -- like the MPAA -- which I’m just as annoyed by.

Dan (I can call him that; we’re kinda sorta family), had heard about our little movie “The Aristocrats.” We’re releasing it later this month, but we decided not to get it rated by the MPAA. It’s being presented unrated to the great American public. Our preview is rated, and it got a “G,” for golly gosh -- but the movie ain’t rated nothing. It’s got no piece of paper from the freakin’ man. The man can pay like everyone else.

Here’s why we didn’t get it rated. We made the movie exactly the way we wanted to -- the comedian Paul Provenza and me, a few dozen of our famous friends, some consumer cameras, a computer and some editing software. No studio, no nothing. We didn’t get a rating for the simple reason that we didn’t ask for one. We saved the fee, the postage (and the possible bootlegging) of sending off the DVD to the powers that be. We’re just putting it out, like free Americans. Find a need and fill it. We think America needs superstars talking filthy dirty and laughing about it. The invisible hand of the marketplace will have the only voice.

If you want to see 105 comedians riffing on the same filthy joke, see it. But if any word has ever offended you (just the word, not the idea or the context), you can be sure that ever-so-bad word is in our movie -- so stay the heck away. If the F-word, C-word, L-word, G-word, or E-word (I’m just making them up now), has ever bugged you, oh, fudge, you are not going to like this movie. It’s a motherhubbard! We don’t want to offend anyone; we want to make people laugh -- and if you don’t laugh at scatological words and street-corner descriptions of sexual perversity, why don’t you go see “Mr. and Mrs. Smith” instead. The studios need your money more than we do. We’ve got less riding on our movie. Provenza and I aren’t desperate. The two of us don’t need to have to deny our phony torrid off-screen romance in the tabloids just to advertise our movie. If this is a movie you want to see, someone will tell you about it.


Our catchphrase is “No Nudity. No Violence. Unspeakable Obscenity.” That says everything. It says a lot more than “NC-17 -- for Language,” and we didn’t have to pay for it. Our movie is the funniest people in the world today swearing a lot. There’s nothing more American that that. Everyone loves dirty jokes. This isn’t a red state/blue state thing. Even George W. and the NASCAR boys (great name for a band) tell dirty jokes. At every Fourth of July celebration in this great nation of ours, everyone wants hot dogs, softball and dirty jokes (some people can’t afford hot dogs and softball, but dirty jokes are universal). People get burned on barbecue grills, people get scraped up playing softball, but no American was ever hurt by listening to dirty jokes. Dirty jokes are American and safe. Terrorists don’t like dirty jokes.

OK, here comes the un-American part. Every once in a while some zoning board in some stupid county will insist that a theater in the area can do business only if it runs films rated inoffensive by the MPAA. One nut sheriff tried to legislate that some drive-in could show only movies rated “G” by the man. These laws get tested in the courts and shot down, as they should.

If any of those laws are still on the books, maybe we’ll be a test case and our stupid little movie will grow up and go to court for free speech, making it George Carlin’s second time to bat. But, if there are any of those counties left, the owners probably don’t want our movie. “The Aristocrats” don’t care; those counties are stinky, and we don’t want our movie playing there anyway.

The MPAA ratings board was set up to allow Hollywood to police itself -- so the government wouldn’t come in and do it. But even if the MPAA didn’t exist, the government wouldn’t get to do that. It’s not allowed to. Right?

Anyway, I don’t mind the MPAA all that much. I don’t mind all the studios getting together and promising that they’ll let a group of non-elected anonymous freaks decide how their movies get edited and advertised. I don’t mind a giant pedestrian-taste cartel. Nothing wrong with that.

But it’s only voluntary if some people don’t volunteer. So that’s what we decided to do. We figured, if all the movies that come out are rated, there’s no real freedom.

The only thing that makes the MPAA’s unelected anonymous board legal and moral is us. “The Aristocrats” proves the MPAA rating is voluntary. If there weren’t classy, star-studded unrated movies like ours coming out, I don’t think the American public would accept people they didn’t even vote for deciding what they could see in public theaters. See, it’s not mandatory, really. Honest.

I don’t think that Dan was just leaning in to be heard above the electric cello, I think he might have been trying to kiss me.